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Exclusive: Chiwetel Ejiofor speaks to BellaNaija on HOAYS, Being Nigerian, Love, James Bond & Kids

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BellaNaija Half of a Yellow Sun Cast - April 2014 - BellaNaija - 039Say hello to our new friend Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Oh well, we can dream, right? BN’s Moremi Amuta and Damilare Aiki were honoured to be invited to interview the actor who stars as Odenigbo in “Half of a Yellow Sun.

The movie has already been premiered in Canada and the UK. So it’s no surprise that the buzz about the upcoming Lagos premiere has been huge!

We got there early – over an hour and a half early to be precise (we don’t do African Time y’all!) and registered on time, so we could be the first to interview Chiwetel and his co-stars and crew including Gloria Young, Tina Mba, OC Ukeje and Biyi Bandele.

Unfortunately, Genevieve Nnaji and Onyeka Onwenu were MIA.

Moremi and Damilare had lots of questions, but narrowed it down to the most juicy ones for our dear BellaNaijarians.

And the Interview Begins!
We walk in and there is Chiwetel, the Academy Award nominee looking debonair, yet simple, dressed in a leather jacket, checkered shirt and jeans.

Damilare asked if he was a shaker or a hugger.  “A handshake is good,” he said, as he smiled warmly.

This may sound cliche but he looks better in person, but we noticed he looked tired. Concerned about our new pal, Moremi asked how he was feeling this morning, he says “I’m a little tired I just got off the plane this morning.”

However, his tiredness did not deter him from giving us some juicy information about the movie and other exciting topics…

BellaNaija Half of a Yellow Sun - April 2014 - BellaNaija - 033Getting the Role of Odenigbo
With a budget of over $10 Million, Half of a Yellow Sun is arguably the biggest Nigerian production yet. Of course, we were interested in finding out how Chiwetel, one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors got the role.

“It’s a long story” he says. Chi, (yeah we can call him that), revealed that it was his mother who gave him the book to read, back when it had just been published.  He read it and was greatly moved by the story.

When he heard that the production of the movie adaptation was under way, he expressed his interest to the director, Biyi Bandele.

Does he speak Igbo?
Igbo Kwenu! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has spoken about the beauty of the Igbo language. So it was only be fair to ask the “son of the soil,” if he could speak Igbo.

“A little bit,” he said, chuckling. Although he has been trying to learn the language over the years, he tells us it hasn’t really worked out.

Hinting that he may be heading home eventually, he said that he may settle in Nigeria and hopefully pick up more of the language.

BellaNaija Half of a Yellow Sun - April 2014 - BellaNaija - 030

British? Nigerian? British-Nigerian? Come on the debate has been going on forever, Chiwetel please set the record straight.
If you recall, on “The Ellen Show,” Chi said he is originally from London, but his parents are from Nigeria (missed it? click here).

Speaking about the  now infamous quote, he shared that although he is of “Nigerian heritage,” he was born and raised in London and as a result, has to be associated with the UK.

So we asked whether he was British or Nigerian, and he said “I am very much both…I am Nigerian-British.”

James Bond Villain Report
Will he be interested in kick fighting on the big screen with Daniel Craig? Oh yes he is!

As BN previously reported, he is being eyed to play a villain in the next instalment of the James Bond franchise ( if you missed this story read it here).

“It is uncertain at the moment,” he said, but he is very much interested.

“Famzing,” we told him that he’ll be more killer than Javier Bardem in the last movie. Flattered, he smiled and cryptically said, “Oh well, we will see.”

On his Oscar Nomination
“I survive. I will not fall into despair. I will offer up my talents to Master Ford. I will keep myself hardy till freedom is opportuned”. WOW, who can forget his amazing portrayal as Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen‘s “12 Years a Slave”?

Chiwetel made history as the first black British actor to be nominated for the ‘best lead actor’ category at the Academy Awards. No need to remind that he is British-Nigerian, lol!

And although he lost out to Matthew McConuaghey for Dallas Buyers Club, the 36-year old actor says he was truly “honoured” to be nominated.

Chiwetel Ejiofor & Sari Mercer - BN Movies & TV - April 2014 - BellaNaija.com

Meeting Sari Mercer
We love LOVE and we know our BellaNaijarians feel the same way! And so you know we just had to ask about the special woman in his life, Sari Mercer.

And guess what? The story of how they met is so sweet! Like a love story from the pages of a romantic novel.

Okay guys, here goes Moremi calling him a sex symbol. “Oh really?” he says. Yes, Chiwetel, yes you are.

So, here’s how they met: Chiwetel decided a couple of years back to explore select places around the world. One of the many spots he visited was Lake Como in Italy.

Sari was also on tour in Italy, they met and instantly clicked, he shares. Aww….

On Wedding Bells
Sari supported Chiwetel throughout the awards season, complementing him in her designer dresses. We absolutely needed to know if she will support him for life, and not just on the red carpet.

Will there be any wedding bells soon? “Well, you will be the first to hear if that happens,” he says, grinning from ear to ear.

Whoop! Whoop! Just so you know BellaNaijarians, we will e-mail his publicist every other day for any updates on this.

How about a couple of Little Ejiofors?
“Now you’re asking questions. I thought this was just going to be about the movie.”

Lol, Chiwetel, not completely.

He cleverly made his way around the question, but however shared that family is very important to him, also making reference to Half of a Yellow Sun and how it connects to family.

Selfie time!

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After an amazing interview with Chiwetel, we moved on to the official Half of a Yellow Sun press conference, held at WheatBaker Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos.
BellaNaija Half of a Yellow Sun - April 2014 - BellaNaija - 026BellaNaija Half of a Yellow Sun - April 2014 - BellaNaija - 035

BN as well as other media representatives were present to ask him questions. Below are a few to which Chiwetel responded to:

On whether Biafra was discussed while growing up: “The Biafra war was a very seminal part of my upbringing and my family history. In fact, I will say that the Biafran war was the reason why I was born in London and not Nigeria.

It was as a result of the war that my parents left Nigeria. It was something I always remembered being talked about in my household, and in my family. Years later I spoke to my grandfather about my mother’s side. He spoke about his experiences between 1960 and 1970.”

BellaNaija Half of a Yellow Sun - April 2014 - BellaNaija - 034

On the Anti-Gay Bill:
“People have the right to make decisions…express individuality…I dislike the idea that we can be split based on our race, gender, Religion, and sexuality. We are all one.”

On rumours of him not being connected with his “Nigerianess”: “I have always been aware of my Nigerian heritage. I grew up understanding my history, identifying as Ibo. I’m feeling the connection to all of those things.”

On the importance of the Biafran Story to Nigerians and movies such as “Half of a Yellow Sun”; “We must understand that it isn’t just a story about Nigeria. It has its implications and its relevancies across the world. It is also an international story.

Whatever you describe as a tribe is so pertinent and creates all of these complications and issues which is why I still feel..the very surviving images of the way Africa has been represented in the western world – starving Children swatting away flies, Kwashiokor – are deeply ingrained in the psyche of western society and even to this day, in most people’s minds, this is the only idea they have about Africa.

And so it has became important to start to tell these stories in a geopolitical context, and not just in an abstract context. There’s been an extraordinary amount of progress in Africa, and people in the west need to recognize that. It hasn’t still been recognized.”

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We are looking forward to seeing Chiwetel in “Half of a Yellow Sun”. You can watch the movie in cinemas across Nigeria from the 25th of April 2014.

44 Comments

  1. yostic

    April 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Chiwetel made history as the first black British actor to be nominated for the ‘best lead actor’ category at the Academy Awards.

    Lol

  2. Bimpe

    April 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    the interviewers obviously spoke more than the interviewee. they might as well just answer all the questions because chiwetel said little as much. i thought it was going to be a proper interview, not to hear the interviewer thoughts. anyway chiwetel good on u. he hardly speaks anyway.

    • wendy

      April 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      I thought same too….and it was very very distracting to read

    • Soraya

      April 12, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      or it could be that he was quiet cos he didn’t understand a word she was asking!

    • omalichaspeaks.blogspot.com

      April 13, 2014 at 1:39 am

      Yeah…..I kinda agree. It really was very distracting to read.

    • AsHaNi

      April 13, 2014 at 8:51 am

      tell me about it! the interview was all over the place! didn’t know whether it was an interview , thinking out loud segment, or what do you think moment..

  3. pacesetter808

    April 12, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Very well spoken dude I must say. Also went about dodging questions he felt were rather personal very well(something our local celebrities should learn). I very much share same opinion with him on the anti-gay bill, probably because of western exposure. I’m very straight and don’t have a problem with gay peeps for as long as they know well enough not to make any advances. However, if the legislature in 9ja kicks against it then so be it. The law is supreme and no gay should be above the law.

  4. nene

    April 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    he looks rough but he’s a handsome man. i don’t see genevieve or onyeka onwenu at the press conference..ndi ishi ike…divas.

  5. mee

    April 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Lol. he gave all politically correct answers (what Nigerians want to hear)

  6. Fabulicious

    April 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Whoever wrote this interview was definitely swooning and so carried away.hahahaha.Women wahala for fine man issue.I love the pattern of the interview, very casual and laid back not like we are reading an interview from Piers Morgan Live.

  7. Judith

    April 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Chiwetelu would look a lot better if he is well groomed. He is a very handsome men, but nneds to step up the game of taking good care of himself.

    • Blessed

      April 12, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      I think he is growing a beard for an upcoming movie

    • Bimpe

      April 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      and i think that beard has being there for like forever… thats his natural look mate

    • idomagirl

      April 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      abeg we love the ‘ungroomed’ look.

    • chum chum

      April 12, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      Oya go and take care of him o, groomed ko take care ni, you ITK is too much please.

    • chum chum

      April 12, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      Your ITK is too much.

    • I don't.

      April 12, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      So true, I agree with you.:-)

  8. @edDREAMZ

    April 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Was so matured and intelligent on his response but lets make the record straight man, yu are not a nogerian but a british abeg…..
    .
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  9. Thatgidigirl

    April 12, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    But why r u guys forcing him to identify with Nigeria anyway? What has Nigeria done for him or anyone else, and how would his Nigerianess advance his career? Make una free the guy jare, all the Nigerian he can ever be is in his name and that is good enough!

    • idomagirl

      April 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      i tire….

  10. edna

    April 12, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Fun interview! I enjoyed reading…Hey Chiwetel 🙂

  11. Sunshine

    April 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Please Chiwetel pay them no mind. You look great. This is how a man should look. I lurve lurve the look. More grease to your elbow. Well done !!!!

  12. Pauline

    April 12, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Smart man I like the way he answers questions

    • Stephanie

      April 14, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Yeah…he was being EXTRA careful, in giving his answers
      blogsvila.blogspot.com

  13. Pua

    April 12, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Lol….very convinient for him to say he is Nigerian-British when he is in Nigeria..
    iiiissssh

  14. hmmmmmm

    April 12, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Honestly BN you guys need to step up your game in the interviewing department. This feature sounded like a feature I would read on BN weddings. Too much fawning and swooning on the interviewers part and it comes across on the interview. I mean some of the hottest men in the world have been interviewed by international press women and the interview came out very professional not like some 16 year old girl who has just met her crush. Whats up with putting words in our mouth aka “we know our readers like xyz” STOP IT ABEG! Too much shoving of opinions, personalities down people’s throats on these streets. If you want to be on CNN, BBC’s league then you all need to grow up otherwise your better off sticking to your wedding stories or reblogging from the professional who know what they are doiing. This was a very poorly done and written interview. Enough of the “awwwws, we love, we like “that’s on this site it’s becoming very irritating.

    • leendi

      April 12, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      Different strokes for different folks. I LOVED it. It felt more like a chat and I totally felt like I was there. Biko BN is not CNN or BBC. I have read and watched so many different Chiwetel interviews and this was my favorite. Nice one!

    • Olori Tari

      April 13, 2014 at 8:32 am

      Hian but BN isn’t CNN or BBC. This is a website for all things lifestyle if I am right. I loved the interview, quite homely. Head over to CNN love 🙂

    • AsHaNi

      April 13, 2014 at 8:54 am

      GBAM!

  15. I don't.

    April 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    What about the so called girlfriend? He could do better? 🙂

  16. Cocobutter

    April 13, 2014 at 12:02 am

    @ hmmmmmm you hit the nail right on the head jare, the interviewer was very childish, and not at all professional. In fact it seems, she couldn’t control herself, in Chiwetel’s presence!!! I didn’t appreciate the interview. Next time BN do better!!

  17. Carolyn Cecile Robinson

    April 13, 2014 at 1:10 am

    If he gets marry to that white woman, I’m threw with him. There’s a lot of beautiful black intelligent women that deserve a chance.:-)We always have to run back to the master. Do you know how many black man have been killed because of white woman? 🙂 Think about. Good actor, but bad taste.

  18. Carolyn Cecile Robinson

    April 13, 2014 at 1:11 am

    From Cincinnati, Ohio.

    • Carolyn Cecile Robinson l

      April 14, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      Sorry, I meant through not threw. My mistake CurvesAndEdges, no one is perfect.

    • Carolyn Cecile Robinson l

      April 14, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      I’m sorry I made a mistake. It should have been through not threw. Please forgive me for not being perfect.:-)

  19. Dee

    April 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    This article is not well put together, it’s incoherent and doesn’t flow well. Please do better with future interviews, especially with high-profile personalities. This would not stand up well against other interviews by well-regarded blogs. You do most things well here on BN but please there’s room for improvement in this area.

  20. Naomi

    April 14, 2014 at 10:30 am

    No one is saying the interview should be so professional like CNN or BBC, but BN could have done better with this interview. It sounded more unserious than informal..

  21. boring, unprofessional stuff. bleh. mytestimonys.blogspot.com/2014/04/que-sera-sera-tolu-and-tope.html

  22. Motun

    April 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

    He truly looks tired….

  23. Carolyn Cecile Robinson

    April 15, 2014 at 12:06 am

    To CurvesAndEdges Sorry, I misspelled a word. One is perfect. It was threw, but should have been through.

  24. Carolyn Cecile Robinson

    April 15, 2014 at 12:46 am

    I’m very sorry, but I made a mistake on the spelling of threw. I meant throug

  25. Ayoola Omobola (seriescentre.blogspot.com)

    April 17, 2014 at 11:06 am

    i love Chiwetel, being following his career since salt and i admire the fact that he hasn’t forgotten Nigeria. Some actors become huge successes and they don’t want the small roles anymore. i like that it was about the role for him not the budget. That’s so cool

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